Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bob Meeksand the Cherokee Connection

Mr and Mrs Meeks examine Indian jewelry in their home workshop. 

From an undated and unnamed magazine clipping found in the files at the Research Library was an article about a local resident with native American connections. 
       A family heritage led to two interesting hobbies for Bob Meeks, of Bridgeport, IL. Over the years Bob  became a skilled worker in polishing, cutting and engraving stones and a collector of Cherokee Indian lore. These hobbies were inherited from his great grandfather, a Cherokee of the Eastern branch. One of his prized Native American items was a Liberty Peace coin, dated 1793, given to his great-grandfather by the French government insuring the Cherokees freedom from slavery. According to tribal word, his great-grandfather was the keeper of legends for the tribe – legends that were handed down from one generation to the next by word-of-mouth. Bob was also interested in Native American dancing, and ceremonies, and naturally unusual stone and bead carvings. Bob continued as the keeper of legends, and on his vacation, he and his wife would go to the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina where they visited the Eastern branch of the tribe. A member of the tribe, he had their confidence and was a welcome visitor.

Don't forget the January meeting this Monday night at the History Center 7 pm with Austin Hardig, young reenactor. If you have native American artifacts that you would like to bring for Show and Tell please send an email to 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Willard Baker Disappearance Still a Mystery

Does this story sound "fishy" to you readers? 

The Daily Record, June 2, 1932
Father of Missing Man Unaware of Disappearance of Chauncey Man; Gives Description

That his father, Asa Baker, was unaware of Willard Baker’s disappearance was learned when a letter from Mr. Baker, who lives in Winona, addressed to his son arrived today.
After Willard disappeared last Tuesday, his cousin, David Baker, with whom he was staying, wrote Asa Baker to see if his son had returned home for a visit.  The father’s letter, which was received today, was mailed before David’s letter arrived, but indicated that the father was unaware of any intention of Willard in leaving Chauncey Tuesday, May 24.
The only clue to the disappearance is that on the Sunday before he left, Willard had spoken to friends of going to the harvest fields.  Though he was silent and uncommunicative by nature, relatives consider it unlikely that he would leave without telling anyone.
Willard took no money or clothes with him on the night he disappeared.  He was driving his 1923 Ford coupe, which was equipped with a sunshade and which carried two spare tires in the rear.  In talking of going to the harvest fields two days earlier, he said he intended to sell the Ford.
On Tuesday, May 24, Willard announced that he was going to Landes store to get some tobacco.  When he got there he met Dale and Ray Waggoner, and went to the show at Oblong with them.  They returned to Landes after the show, and sat on the porch of the store for a while before the Waggoner boys left for home.  Twenty or thirty minutes later Willard left, driving away in his Ford.  He did not reach home and no word has been heard from him.
Willard Baker is 27 years old, nearly six feet tall, weighs 170 pounds, has brown hair, blue eyes and is of medium complexion.  When he last left the David Baker home he was dressed in his work clothes, overalls, a gray shirt, a tan jacket sweater, and a light cap.All his other clothes were left at the house with several dollars belonging to him.  It is believed he had little money with him.

In view of his lack of preparation for a trip, and his failure to tell anyone, it is not considered likely that he started to the harvest fields, or undertook any trip of great length.  Whether he left voluntarily and knowingly, or whether he suffered loss of memory, or was taken away by force is still a mystery.

 The Vincennes Sun Commercial, June 17. 1932

Willard Baker Working in Kansas

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ill, --The long search for Willard Baker who disappeared from his Chauncey home on May 24 has been ended with the word from the sheriff at Winsfield, Kansas that Baker is there with relatives and is working in that vicinity.
Baker was last seen on the evening of May 24 when he started home from Landes in his Ford coupe but failed to arrive at home and nothing could be learned of his whereabouts for several days.  His relatives here became alarmed and an extensive search was started for him.
The telegram from the sheriff at Winsfield, Kansas received here today by local authorities asked that the relatives here be informed of his whereabouts.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Grand Opening of George Field Oct 16, 1942

Bridgeport Leader Thursday, October 15, 1942

Grand Opening George Field Friday, October 16, 1942

Six months after the first definite word of the establishment of an Army Air Force advanced flying school on the Allison Prairie lands in Lawrence County, official opening of the camp will be observed. The date set for the inspection by the public is Friday, October 16, 1942 from the hours of 2 to 6.

A simple ceremony has been planned to begin at 4 o’clock, Maj. Gen. Ralph Royce, Commanding General of the South East Army Air Forces Training Center, of Maxwell Field, Alabama will be the principal speaker of the ceremony.

Following is a tentative program:
2 o’clock:  Post open to the public. Inspection of grounds, planes and buildings.
4 o’clock:  dedicatory exercises.  Opening prayer. The National Anthem. Introduction of guests. Introduction of Col. Mundy. Words of Welcome by Col. Mundy. General Royce presented by Col. Mundy. General Royce’s address. Closing prayer. Aerial review.
5:30 o’clock: Retreat at Cadet Area.
6 o’clock: Clearing of post by civilians.

In another article the paper noted that Bridgeport Township High School would dismiss classes Friday at noon so that students and faculty could visit George Field at its public opening. Many Bridgeport stores would also cease their daily routine and visit the Lawrence County air school on October 16.

Next week the paper reported that thousands upon thousands of individuals ‘knocked- off- Friday afternoon from their tasks and journeyed  to George Field for the official dedication and tour. Many had received the coveted official invitations that granted them special concessions. Thousands of automobiles labored through the gates to the near 4000 acres of concrete, gravel and buildings. Dozens of planes were ready for inspection for those who stood in line waiting their turn.

Dust was not worrisome to the visitors. The streets were treated and easily traveled on foot or car inside the grounds. The Bridgeport Township High School Band under the direction of M T Johnson was on hand to offer many musical selections. The Vincennes and Lawrenceville High School Bands were also there and joined with the band of George Field  in following  one director to play the Star-Spangled Banner as 18 planes soared overhead in formation.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What's Happening in the Historical Society

Do you have any Native American artifacts such as arrowheads, ax heads etc? If so please bring them for "Show and Tell' at our January meeting Jan 23, 2017.  Austin Hardig, a LTHS student has been participating in the Vincennes Rendezvous for a couple of year as a reenactor.  He portrays a young Woodlands Native American and will be sharing his experiences and knowledge at our January meeting. 7:00 pm at the History Center on the Square....don't forget.

The History Center (formerly called the Museum) will be open during the winter on Mondays and Saturday from 9 to 3. Appointments can be made to visit at other times during the week also.  Nancy K is working on a  new exhibit for February so you will want to see that when it is completed.

The fourth Saturday of each month will now be Movie Day at the History Center.   A brand new 24 minute film, the Making of Water Ways will be shown January28 at 10 and 1 o'clock.  Professionally produced, it features interviews by the persons involved in successfully bringing the Smithsonian to Lawrenceville last fall. It was sent to the Smithsonian and to Illinois Humanities and met with rave reviews by both organizations.  Stop by and see it as well as are other films: The making of Red Hills Lake, the vintage Mussel Fishing film, and the interviews with local residents about flooding.    

We are hoping to compile a complete set of yearbooks from every school in the County, so if you have one that you would be willing to donate, please send it or drop it by the History Center.

Also don't forget your 2017 dues are now payable.  Send a check ($25 for an individual or $35 for a family) to PO Box 425, Lawrenceville. IL.  Membership dues help pay the utility bills.

Is this the winter you have vowed to research an ancestor or create a family tree?  The Research Library is open Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 9-12 or by appointment and the volunteers there are quite skilled in assisting you.

Check out our award winning website for more information about what we are doing and please join us.  We are looking for members and volunteers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

William Earl Griggs

The photos are all of Earl Griggs.  The bank shown in in Bridgeport. 

History Center Closed Saturday january 14, 2017

Because of the predicted Ice Storm, the History Center will be closed tomorrow Saturday January 14, 2017.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mistakes Lye for Coffee

June 21, 1928 Vincennes Morning Commercial 
Mistakes Lye For Coffee --Is Seriously Ill

John Brooks, watchmen at the Indian Refinery, is seriously ill at his home on S. 7th St. Lawrenceville, as a result of drinking a portion of a cup of concentrated  lye  which he mistook for coffee. Although he was severely burned and a portion of the lie was taken into his stomach, it is believed he will recover.

Mr. Brooks returned home from work Tuesday evening. He was tired, and as was his custom, went to the kitchen to pour out and drink a cup of coffee. There were two coffee boilers on the stove; but one was empty. It was dark in the room, and he did not pay particular attention to the color of the liquid he poured from the other coffeepot. He poured some cream into the filled cup, and then raised the cup to his lips. He took a big swallow before he detected his serious mistake.

His son happened to come home at that time, and realizing the serious nature of the mistake, rushed his father to the office of Dr. R. R. Trueblood, who gave him medical attention. He was resting better today, but is still suffering intensely from the burns of the lie.

An explanation for the mistake was the fact that Mr. Brooks’ daughter, Miss Dorothy, had been cleaning out the coffee boiler which was discolored from coffee stains and had left the lie contents in the boiler while she was at work in another part of the house. It was purely an accident, but one that might have proved very serious.